The New Testament and the Deuterocanonicals (3/4)

The New Testament and the Deuterocanonicals: Ephesians-James

It is often claimed by Roman Catholic apologists that the New Testament is full of quotations, citations, or allusions to the deuterocanonical or apocryphal writings, which is supposed to prove that Christ and the apostles considered these books canonical.

This is the third article (of four), examining some 78 alleged uses of the deuterocanonicals or apocryphal writings in the New Testament.

Eph. 1:17 – Paul’s prayer for a “spirit of wisdom” follows the prayer for the spirit of wisdom in Wisdom 7:7.

Here are the two passages:

Wisdom 7:
7 Wherefore I prayed, and understanding was given me: I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.

Ephesians 1:
17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him,

In Wisdom, a man prays for understanding and wisdom to be granted him. In Ephesians, Paul prays that God might grant others understanding and wisdom. The passage in Ephesians has no dependence on the passage in Wisdom, and Solomon’s prayer for wisdom in the Old Testament (1 Kings 3:9), is undoubtedly the source of the passage in Wisdom, especially since the full title of this book is ‘The Wisdom of Solomon’.

Eph. 6:14 – Paul describing the breastplate of righteousness is the same as Wis. 5:18. See also Isaiah 59:17 and 1 Thess. 5:8.

Here are the two passages:

Wisdom 5:
18 He shall put on righteousness as a breastplate, and true judgment instead of an helmet.

Ephesians 6:
14 Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness,

Both are drawn from the earlier passage in Isaiah:

Isaiah 59:
17 He wears his desire for justice like armor, [Hebrew ‘breastplate’ and his desire to deliver [or ‘salvation’] is like a helmet on his head. He puts on the garments of vengeance and wears zeal like a robe.

It is clear that Paul’s is the closer quote from Isaiah. Wisdom has a helmet of ‘true judgment’, which is a departure from the passage in Isaiah. Paul on the other hand quotes Isaiah correctly, referring to the ‘helmet of salvation’:

Ephesians 6:
17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The fact that Paul quotes two parts of Isaiah 59:17, and Wisdom quotes only one (and changes the other), proves that Paul was quoting from Isaiah, not Wisdom.

Eph. 6:13-17 – in fact, the whole discussion of armor, helmet, breastplate, sword, shield follows Wis. 5:17-20.

Here are the two passages:

Wisdom 5:
17 He shall take to him his jealousy for complete armour, and make the creature his weapon for the revenge of his enemies.
18 He shall put on righteousness as a breastplate, and true judgment instead of an helmet.
19 He shall take holiness for an invincible shield.
20 His severe wrath shall he sharpen for a sword, and the world shall fight with him against the unwise.

Ephesians 5:
13 For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand.
14 Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousnessm
15 by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace,
16 and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

The only common term is the breastplate of righteousness, which we have seen Paul quotes from Isaiah 59:17. The differences between these two passages are obvious:

* Wisdom has ‘true judgment instead of a helmet’, Paul has ‘the helmet of salvation’

* Wisdom has ‘holiness for an invincible shield’, Paul has ‘the shield of faith’

* Wisdom has ‘His severe wrath’ for a sword, Paul has ‘the word of God’

1 Tim. 6:15 – Paul’s description of God as Sovereign and King of kings is from 2 Macc. 12:15; 13:4.

Here are the two passages from the Maccabees:

2 Maccabees 12:
15 Wherefore Judas with his company, calling upon the great Lord of the world, who without rams or engines of war did cast down Jericho in the time of Joshua, gave a fierce assault against the walls,

2 Maccabees 13:
4 But the King of kings moved Antiochus’ mind against this wicked wretch, and Lysias informed the king that this man was the cause of all mischief, so that the king commanded to bring him unto Berea, and to put him to death, as the manner is in that place.

All this proves is that Paul was using a title of God which was in common use among the Jews of his time. It is not evidence that Paul considered the Maccabees to be inspired, and since Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:15 are clearly not quoted from either of these passages, there is no case to make here.

2 Tim. 4:8 – Paul’s description of a crown of righteousness is similar to Wisdom 5:16.

Here are the two passages:

Wisdom 5:
16 Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord’s hand: for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them.

2 Timothy 4:
8 Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.

In Wisdom we have ‘a beautiful crown’, and in 2 Timothy we have ‘the crown of righteousness’. Furthermore, in the Greek text of Wisdom the word for crown is DIADHMA, but in the Greek text of 2 Timothy the word for crown is STEFANOS.

Heb. 4:12 – Paul’s description of God’s word as a sword is similar to Wisdom 18:15.

Here are the two passages:

Wisdom 18:
15 Thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction,

Hebrews 4:
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.

There is only one common term, ‘word’, and the descriptions are totally different.

Heb. 11:5 – Enoch being taken up is also referenced in Wis 4:10 and Sir 44:16. See also 2 Kings 2:1-13 & Sir 48:9 regarding Elijah.

It is worth noting first of al that in neither Wisdom 4:10 nor in Sirach 44:16 or 48:9 is Enoch said to have been taken up to heaven:

Wisdom 4:
7 But though the righteous be prevented with death, yet shall he be in rest.
8 For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years.
9 But wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age.
10 He pleased God, and was beloved of him: so that living among sinners he was translated.
11 Yea speedily was he taken away, lest that wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul.
12 For the bewitching of naughtiness doth obscure things that are honest; and the wandering of concupiscence doth undermine the simple mind.
13 He, being made perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long time:
14 For his soul pleased the Lord: therefore hasted he to take him away from among the wicked.
15 This the people saw, and understood it not, neither laid they up this in their minds, That his grace and mercy is with his saints, and that he hath respect unto his chosen.
16 Thus the righteous that is dead shall condemn the ungodly which are living; and youth that is soon perfected the many years and old age of the unrighteous.
17 For they shall see the end of the wise, and shall not understand what God in his counsel hath decreed of him, and to what end the Lord hath set him in safety.

Sirach 44:
10 But these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten.
11 With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.
12 Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes.
13 Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.
14 Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.
15 The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise.
16 Enoch pleased the Lord, and was translated, being an example of repentance to all generations.

Sirach 48:
4 O Elias, how wast thou honoured in thy wondrous deeds! and who may glory like unto thee!
5 Who didst raise up a dead man from death, and his soul from the place of the dead, by the word of the most High:
6 Who broughtest kings to destruction, and honorable men from their bed:
7 Who heardest the rebuke of the Lord in Sinai, and in Horeb the judgment of vengeance:
8 Who annointedst kings to take revenge, and prophets to succeed after him:
9 Who was taken up in a whirlwind of fire, and in a chariot of fiery horses:

In these three passages, only Elijah is said to have been ‘taken up’. In Wisdom and Sirach, Enoch is said to have been ‘translated’, as in Hebrews, but neither in Hebrews nor in Wisdom or Sirach is Enoch said to have been taken into heaven.

On the contrary, we can see from the context of the passages in both Wisdom and Sirach that Enoch is presented as an example of righteous men who are now dead:

* ‘though the righteous be prevented with death, yet shall he be in rest’, Wisdom 4:7

* ‘He pleased God, and was beloved of him: so that living among sinners he was translated’, Wisdom 4:10

* ‘Yea speedily was he taken away’, Wisdom 4:11

* ‘For his soul pleased the Lord: therefore hasted he to take him away from among the wicked’, Wisdom 4:14

* ‘Thus the righteous that is dead shall condemn the ungodly which are living’, Wisdom 4:16

* ‘these were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten’, ‘Their bodies are buried in peace’, Sirach 44:10, 14

* ‘Enoch pleased the Lord, and was translated, being an example of repentance to all generations’, Sirach 44:16

In every case we see that Enoch is described as ‘translated’, not ‘taken to heaven’. We also see that he is described as one of the righteous who was ‘prevented with death’ (who died, in other words), described as ‘the rightoeus that is dead’, and of those whose ‘bodies are buried in peace’. The authors of Wisdom and Sirach both believed that Enoch had been taken away by God, but that he had also died and been buried, not assumed bodily into heaven.

Heb 11:35 – Paul teaches about the martyrdom of the mother and her sons described in 2 Macc. 7:1-42.

Here are the two passages, with the key verses from 2 Maccabees 7:

2 Maccabees 7:
1 It came to pass also, that seven brethren with their mother were taken, and compelled by the king against the law to taste swine’s flesh, and were tormented with scourges and whips.
2 But one of them that spake first said thus, What wouldest thou ask or learn of us? we are ready to die, rather than to transgress the laws of our fathers.

9 And when he was at the last gasp, he said, Thou like a fury takest us out of this present life, but the King of the world shall raise us up, who have died for his laws, unto everlasting life.

14 So when he was ready to die he said thus, It is good, being put to death by men, to look for hope from God to be raised up again by him: as for thee, thou shalt have no resurrection to life.

Hebrews 11:
35 and women received back their dead raised to life. But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better life.

Whilst it is entirely possible that Paul had this record in mind when writing Hebrews 11, it proves no more than that he regarded 2 Maccabees as a legitimate historical record. It does not prove that he considered the book to be canonical, any more than references in the Old Testament to the Book of Jasher and in the New Testament to the Book of Enoch prove that the Biblical authors considered them canonical.

Heb. 12:12 – the description “drooping hands” and “weak knees” comes from Sirach 25:23.

Here are the two passages together:

Sirach 25:
23 A wicked woman abateth the courage, maketh an heavy countenance and a wounded heart: a woman that will not comfort her husband in distress maketh weak hands and feeble knees.

Hebrews 12:
12 Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees,

We note immediately that the two passages differ both in context and language. Sirach is describing the effect of a woman who will not comfort her husband, whereas Paul is exhorting brethren and sisters to stand fast in their hope and uphold those who are weakening – a completely different context, and a command rather than a description.

Paul’s words are in fact taken straight from the canonical book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 35:
3 Strengthen the hands that have gone limp, [Hebrew ‘weak hands’] steady the knees that shake! [Hebrew ‘feeble/staggering knees’]

There is nothing here to suggest that a non-canonical work is being quoted.

James 1:19 – let every man be quick to hear and slow to respond follows Sirach 5:11.

Here are the two passages:

Sirach 5:
11 Be swift to hear; and let thy life be sincere; and with patience give answer.

James 1:
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.

We can see that there is some similarity here, but also a difference. Certainly James is not quoting Sirach 5:11, because the only common phrase here is the instruction to be quick to listen, an exhortation which was a common Jewish proverb (commentary in Talmud Babylon, Tractate Megillah, folio 21.1, probably derived from Proverbs 18:13, which advises men to listen carefully before giving an answer). Nor does Sirach contain the instruction to be slow to anger.

James’ words are more likely to be taken from the numerous exhortations in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes to speak little Proverbs 10:19; 13:3; 15:2, 17:27; 21:23, Ecclesiastes 5:2), and be slow to anger (Proverbs 14:17, 29; 15:18; 16:32; 19:11, Ecclesiastes 7:9).

James 2:23 – it was reckoned to him as righteousness follows 1 Macc. 2:52 – it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

When we look at the quote from 1 Maccabbees, this certainly looks like a good argument:

1 Maccabbees 2:
52 Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness?

However, when we look at the quote from James, we see how it is being misrepresented:

James 2:
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.

In 1 Maccabbees 2:52, Abraham is ‘found faithful in temptation’, and it was ‘imputed unto him for righteousness’. In James 2:23, Abraham ‘believed God’, and it was ‘counted to him for righteousness’. There is a distinct difference between these two phrases.

Is it possible, however, that when James refers to ‘the Scripture’ that he is actually speaking of the passage in 1 Maccabbees, despite the different wording? No, it is not possible, because we know for certain the source of James’ words – the canonical book of Genesis:

Genesis 15:
6 Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord considered his response of faith proof of genuine loyalty. [Hebrew ‘imputed it to him for righteousness’]

It is evident that James is not adapting 1 Maccabbees 2:52, but quoting word for word from the book of Genesis.

James 3:13 – James’ instruction to perform works in meekness follows Sirach 3:17.

Here are the two passages:

Sirach 3:
17 My son, go on with thy business in meekness; so shalt thou be beloved of him that is approved.

James 3:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings.

There does not appear to be any signficant connection between these two passages.

James 5:3 – describing silver which rusts and laying up treasure follows Sirach 29:10-11.

It is difficult to see the connection between these two passages:

Sirach 29:
10 Lose thy money for thy brother and thy friend, and let it not rust under a stone to be lost.
11 Lay up thy treasure according to the commandments of the most High, and it shall bring thee more profit than gold.

James 5:
3 Your gold and silver have rusted and their rust will be a witness against you. It will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have hoarded treasure!

Quite apart from the fact that there are no common phrases here (we have two common words, ‘rust’ and ‘gold’), the contexts of the two pasages are completely different. Sirach is giving financial advice on how to prosper in this world, whereas James is denouncing the riches of greedy men who have gathered gold and silver but who will not benefit from it. If James is alluding to any other passage, he is far more likely to be alluding to Christ’s words in Matthew 6:

Matthew 6:
19 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.
20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Considering the large number of quotes from and allusions to the words of Christ in James, this is a far more likely source for James’ words.

James 5:6 – condemning and killing the “righteous man” follows Wisdom 2:10-20.

Here are the two passages:

Wisdom 2:
10 Let us oppress the poor righteous man, let us not spare the widow, nor reverence the ancient gray hairs of the aged.
11 Let our strength be the law of justice: for that which is feeble is found to be nothing worth.
12 Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education.
13 He professeth to have the knowledge of God: and he calleth himself the child of the Lord.
14 He was made to reprove our thoughts.
15 He is grievous unto us even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, his ways are of another fashion.
16 We are esteemed of him as counterfeits: he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness: he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father.
17 Let us see if his words be true: and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him.
18 For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies.
19 Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience.
20 Let us condemn him with a shameful death: for by his own saying he shall be respected.

James 5:
6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person, although he does not resist you.

The words in Wisdom are the words of wicked men planning to oppress the righteous man. The words in James are his condemnation of people who have condemned and murdered the righteous man. There is no direct connectoin here, nor even any common phrases. If anything, the words of Wisdom are taken from the Proverbs:

Proverbs 1:
10 My child, if sinners try to entice you, do not consent!
11 If they say, “Come with us! We will lie in wait to shed blood; we will ambush an innocent person capriciously.
12 We will swallow them alive like Sheol, those full of vigor like those going down to the Pit.
13 We will seize all kinds of precious wealth; we will fill our houses with plunder.
14 Join with us! We will all share equally in what we steal.”

Part four.


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